Regulation

East Yorkshire planners back major West Newton oil site expansion despite 1,000+ objections

Proposals by Rathlin Energy for 20 years of oil production and six new wells at its West Newton-A site in East Yorkshire have been supported by council officials.

West Newton-A plan. Source: Rathlin Energy

There have been more than 1,000 objections to the scheme, including seven parish councils, members of the public, campaigners and the local county councillor.

But a 90-page report published today by East Riding of Yorkshire Council planners recommended approval when the scheme is decided next week (30 September 2021).

This is one of the largest planning applications for UK onshore oil and gas in recent years. If approved, it would treble the footprint of the West Newton-A site in Holderness and could permit oil production until after 2050, by which time the UK should have achieved net zero carbon emissions.  

The report said “in excess of 999 objections” had been received from the public, with more than 60 reasons given for refusal. There were five letters of support.

This afternoon opponents said the planners had failed to mention key issues identified in the objections.

The West Newton-A wellsite, off Fosham Road, was first approved in January 2013. Two exploratory boreholes were drilled in 2013 and 2019. The duration of the permission was extended in 2015 and 2018. The current consent expires in November 2021.

Climate impact

Many of the objections were about the scheme’s impact on climate change.

But the planners’ report said the application complied with local and national policy, even though both the county council and UK government have declared climate emergencies.

Its author, East Yorkshire’s director of planning and economic regeneration, Alan Menzies, said:

“Whilst there is a firm commitment on the part of Government to move to a low carbon economy, in the transition period there will still need to be a secure and reliable supply of energy sources.

“Whilst the burning of hydrocarbons produced by the proposals will undoubtedly give rise to unwelcome carbon emissions, it is important to note that the consent is limited to 25 years and that during that time it is anticipated that there will be a substantial restructuring of the UK economy to enable it to become based upon low carbon.

“In the transition period the economic component of sustainable development means that it is essential for the UK to be able to draw upon traditional sources of energy, which comprise a resilient form of supply.

“This is fully supported by UK Government policy. Such emissions to air need to be viewed in this context therefore, however unwelcome.”

Landscape and traffic

Montage of the proposed site extension by Fossil Free East Yorkshire

Another major concern of local people has been the impact of the extended site on the surrounding landscape.

Rathlin Energy has proposed using a 55m rig to drill the new wells. This would be 19m higher than the rig permitted at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site in Lancashire.

Mr Menzies said the development was “considered acceptable in landscape terms” if permission was limited to 25 years”. He said the rig would “introduce a feature generally uncharacteristic to this landscape”. But, he said, it would be on site for “a relatively short time”, totalling 24 months and would be limited to 55m.

He added:

“The relative isolation of the site also reduces any potential impact on the visual amenities of the nearest properties, and also assists in negating the impact of noise on the nearest residential properties.”

Many objections also focussed on the impact of increased traffic visiting the site, including heavy lorries and tankers.

Mr Menzies said:

“The development is considered acceptable from a highway safety, access and parking prospective, whilst heritage assets will be safeguarded from harm. The proposal is a very heavily regulated on technical and environmental grounds by a number of other public organisations.”

Other objections

In his objection, the ward councillor, Jacob Birch, said any oil produced should be sent to a refinery by pipeline, rather than road tanker. He said the local community had worked with Rathlin Energy for the past 10 years on the
basis that oil would be piped out.

Parish councils representing Aldbrough, Bilton, Burton Constable, Ellerby, Roos, Skidby and Withernwick raised additional issues, including noise, public safety, policing protests and lighting.

The campaign group, Fossil Free East Yorkshire commissioned a review by a planning consultant, which described the application as “fundamentally flawed”.

The group also commissioned a hydrogeological assessment, which suggested Rathlin Energy had not adequately assessed potential pollution risks.   

Mr Menzies did not mention these reports, nor an objection from the local tourist attraction, Burton Constable Hall, about the potential impact on its visitors.

The report said there were no objections from the Environment Agency, Natural England, Yorkshire Waters, Humberside Historic Environmental Record, the local highways authority, local flood and drainage teams, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, National Air Traffic Service, and council officials responsible for conservation, ecology, sustainable development, public protection and trees.

There were no responses to the application from Humberside Police, Spectrum, National Grid, Civil Aviation Authority, Garton and Humberside Airports, Ministry of Defence and the council’s rights of ways officer.

Conditions

The report recommended 20 conditions. These include a ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which Rathlin Energy has said it did not intend to use.

If the application were approved, Rathlin must begin work on site within five years of the any permission and restore the site within 25 years.

The conditions also recommend a height limit of 15m on the flare stack, limits on operational noise and the agreement of plans covering management of traffic, construction impact on the environment, wildlife enhancement, lighting.

Reaction

Fossil Free East Yorkshire said this afternoon:

“We can only echo that drilling for oil now, in 2021, ‘is just insane’ (local councillor) and ‘beggars belief’ (Hull MP). 

“The head of the UN says it’s “code red for humanity” and the “death knell for fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet”; the International Energy Agency says “we do not need any more investments in new oil”; and the world’s top scientists just reported the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground, and our situation “is absolutely desperate”.

“This planning application in particular is inadequate, incomplete, contradicts a number of local and national policies, and is “fundamentally flawed” – as detailed in our report by Independent Planning Consultants.  Oil will have to be tankered out by hundreds of thousands of HGVs. Unbelievably, all the gas would just be wasted and burnt on site in a flare.

“So just about everybody objects to it – the local ward councillor, the Parish Councils, nearby businesses and tourist attractions like Burton Constable Hall, and over a thousand members of the public.

“And yet Approval is recommended?  Our system must be beyond broken.

“The Councillors on the Planning Committee, the same councillors who just declared a Climate Emergency must refuse this application, for all our sakes, and our future.”

Local resident, Harry Clark, who objected to Rathlin’s application, said:

“Having now read the report I am of the opinion that, the planners are considering this development in isolation and failing to comprehend the cumulative affects on the environment and local communities, of this development and potential further development at the West Newton B well site.”

Another opponent of Rathlin Energy’s proposals, Peter Hamilton, said:

“I respectfully disagree with the planning officers decision, there is a massive amount of important information missing from the planning application, despite the reports that were commissioned by Fossil Free East Yorkshire (FFEY).

“The report was carried out by a highly experienced team of consultants and was the most detailed and robust objection submitted. Despite the points raised in the FFEY report, none of them appear to have been considered in the planners report.

“FFEY submitted a further objection from an experienced hydrogeologist today. This assessment has identified a number of significant issues with the current planning application in relation to the assessment of risks to the water environment, this has also been sent to the environment agency.

“On Monday the 27th at 2pm five representatives of the immediate local communities will be afforded thirty minutes airtime with the planning Committee to represent their case for objection.”

Rathlin Energy said:

“We welcome the officers’ recommendation but recognise that the planning decision will be taken by the elected members of the council’s planning committee.”

DrillOrDrop has invited Fossil Free East Yorkshire to comment on the recommendation. This article will be updated with any new responses.

Meeting details

Pre-planning meeting 2pm, Monday 27 September 2021, County Hall, Beverley. Rathlin Energy and opponents can make presentations to East Riding of Yorkshire councillors lasting a total of 30 minutes each.

Meeting of East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s planning committee 10am, Thursday 30 September 2021, County Hall, Beverley.

  • DrillOrDrop will report on both meetings, which the council says will be livestreamed on its YouTube channel (link).

45 replies »

  1. Why the hysteria? How many of those 1000 objectors live within eyeshot of the site? How many have no gas supply to their home and don”t drive a car??

    This development will in no way increase the total gas usage of the UK, but it will lower the carbon output as less carbon will be emitted transporting foreign gas (from politically dodgy areas) to the UK. It will also increase the tax income for national and local government.

    It will also slightly reduce the risk of geopolitics leading to a UK wide gas shortage, improve energy security.

    MOST importantly it reduce pressure on gas prices at time when fuel poverty is a increasing problem. Bleeding heart eco-grandstanding doesn’t heat the homes and feed the children of other people.

    • Bob, it’s an oil well!
      Always a good idea to check your facts.
      Want to try again to share your wisdom about the value of an oilfield at this stage of the developing climate emergency?
      Jon

      • I’ve forgotten more about this well and the geology of the reservoir than you’ll ever know. It is predominantly a gas discovery and development. The oil has not even been described, it may well be condensate. There are 2 other analogous prospects in the PEDL area which have not yet been drilled. There is also a possible oil leg in the Cadeby reef deep to the Kirkham Abbey formation. I suspect that the liquid (oil) component is not going to be that significant.

        The true value of this is the gas, which about as close to existing gas infrastructure and the Saltend Park as it’s possible to get.

        The same arguments also apply to oil anyway. Why transport it around the world when it exists here and comes out of the ground a few miles away from a refinery?

        Oil is essential for the creation of polymers, fertilisers, chemicals and pharmaceuticals without which modern society doesn’t function all too well. The alternatives do not yet exist, and their restriction will guarantee poverty and misery to millions of people already around.

        I understand the physics of global warming, and have done since my geography teacher told me about it in the 1980s. I also understand the economics of resource poverty, and how history shows it inevitably leads to wars. THAT’s what worries me more. Mass poverty and war. The solutions are going to have to be technological, but we’re not there yet. We need to TRANSITION, and using what you produce yourself, and no more, would be my preferred goal for the UK as technology makes the continues use of fossil fuels uneconomic. THAT is the point at which net zero is possible.

        Emotional diarrhoea and hand-painted wellies are not going to solve this mess. That’s only going to happen with rational thought and the application of the art of the possible.

        If fewer people had participated and listened to the disgracefully HYSTERIA and PROPAGANDA about the nuclear industry in the 1970s and 80s, we would be a long way further ahead than we are now. I see counter-productive parallels with XR and climate change, and it boils my piss. It will leave it to XR we’ll end with Wars, Poverty AND climate change.

        • You need to keep up Bob. Gas exploration at West Newton A failed when Rathlin were unable to satisfy the Environment Agency that gas released during exploration could be properly dealt with.
          If the Bowland Shale gas reserves do exist and if they could be safely exploited then I am sure Cuadrilla and Rathlin would be in full production now and reaping the profits. Cuadrilla and Rathlin failed to demonstrate that production was possible and INEOS appear to have given up the “dash for gas” too.
          If, as you claim, you have evidence that the purpose of the current West Newton A oil wells application is a subterfuge to create a significant gas production site then you should provide it immediately. It means the Planning application falls.

          • Jon Mager, gas exploration at West Newton A didn’t end or fail due to Rathlin being unable to satisfy the EA that gas released during exploration could be properly dealt with.

            WNA-2’s aim was for gas exploration in the Kirkham Abbey formation and oil exploration in the Cadeby Reef. The Bowland Shale was never a target.

            Both oil and gas were encountered during the drilling of WNA-2.

            The WNA planning application reflects this by seeking permission for oil production which will be transported away by road tanker and gas production which will be used onsite to generate electricity.

    • We might not live in site of it but we live in the village that all of the lorry’s have to travel through – have you looked at the tiny country roads around west Newton!

  2. Exactly, Bob.

    Neither can I understand this fixation with numbers of objections. It has been made perfectly clear at other planning meetings that it is the substance of the objections that is considered, not the numbers.

    Sometimes, a few can come up with some substance, sometimes many can not. This is not exclusive to such projects, it is part and parcel of the whole system. Remember Boaty McBoatFace? Seems those who make the decisions do recognize there is substance.

    • Exactly Bob? You mean you agree with someone who supports the oilfield but thinks it is producing gas – probably wise to check if there is any substance in support offered to Rathlin and Co before going online?

  3. I think Bob makes a valid point. At the moment the crisis is in gas supply it could very easily be oil tomorrow. For too long the anti fossil fuel zealots have been peddling the myth that a move to renewable energy is just about willpower. Part of the current crisis is because of the complete failure of wind power to meet the production they promised. More turbines are useless when the wind don’t blow. Five energy suppliers have now gone bust. They have one thing in common. They all claim to be supplying 100% renewables. Like the Green lobby they have been conning the public by making claims about fossil fuel alternatives that don’t stand the test of time.

  4. You’ve got you hysterical knickers on about oil haven’t you? (The oil is a secondary ‘bonus’ at West Newton, on the condition its commercially viable).

    I doubt that you never travel in vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, eat food grown with fertilisers or packaged in plastic and CO2, used pharmaceuticals, paint or insulate your house etc etc.

    Are you comfortable with your oil being imported across the world from Saudi, Russia or from the Shale Basins of the US?

    • Bob, keep up the good work, you are a glimmer of hope in this mad dash to destroy the UK’s industries; and to take us all back to the stone age.

  5. Cheers Mike. We have the incredible situation of an incompetent government running scared of science free zone climate cult.

    It’s so depressing. The UK has allowed its self to be de-industrialised largely, so we are a drop in the global bucket of emissions.

    If we REALLY want to help, we should drop the climate change deniers AND the XR cultists as both are two cheeks of the same arse. We need to to LEAD the way with scientifically and economically rational/literate TRANSITION with a mix of technologies and initiatives including nuclear (BALLS DEEP!), energy storage to get more value from wind/solar, Hydrogen, energy efficiency and using the lowest possible carbon intensity hydrocarbon sources as we strive to make hydrocarbons uneconomic to extract and use.

    I’m as disappointed as anyone to see a coal fired power station fired up in the UK in September. However, I’m not prepared to see anyone freeze or go hungry this winter to salve the conscience of a few middle class XR hippies called Jemima or Jacinta.

  6. And, today, in USA, the price of oil rose over $1/barrel? Why? Because usage is back to the pre pandemic record levels, so inventory has dropped significantly.

    Wonder how that might turn out? I suspect they will frack away to redress their own situation, but the rest of the world will not avoid the ripples-or whacking great waves.

    So, Jon-is that what you prefer? If so, there is a chap called Jack you could chat to about it.

    • No MARTIN ,

      Sometimes I wonder if you are real person, or a computer BOT . Your grasp on major problems here on planet earth is away with the fairies .

      RAMPANT inflation is also playing a large part in pushing up fuel prices . Also let’s not kid ourselves, inflation is a LOT , LOT higher that the already eye watering figures the government has suggested.

      Jon, if you take financial advice from MARTIN , please be prepared to loose the shirt of your back .

    • MARTIN ,

      HERE are the facts regarding oil consumption in the UK , up to year 2020 and the forecast for future demand .

      FORCAST is a continuing decline .

      • There he goes again. If you find that chat with Jack makes any sense, Jon, then enjoy.

        Jack, future forecasts are not actual usage! I forecast which teams are going to win this weekend, but the reality is then available once the weekend has been reached. Strangely (lol) they are not the same.

        For those who are interested in reality, the data is there for you to access. Jack seems determined to continue to try and create a false narrative, and not very concerned how obvious it is. Buyer beware. US is not UK. US usage will have much greater impact upon world prices than UK usage.

        Jack-inflation is a measure of rising prices, not the other way round! Bless.

        “Your grasp on major problems here on planet earth is away with the fairies” The difference between us, Jack, is that you continue to proudly display your lack of grasp, but strangely assume there are others in a similar position. Maybe a few, like those who can observe Wressle is about to convert gas into electricity at an oil production site and then try and suggest that will not happen at other sites!

        It continues to intrigue me why those who want to proclaim their justification for being anti something continue to proclaim their lack of basic knowledge about the subject on a public forum. Almost seems an acceptance that any impartial viewer is not going to be convinced by reality, so, direct the comment to a few who don’t see reality as important. Sorry, Jack, I believe your approach is wrong, and patronizing to the majority, and does not paint a very good picture of those who are anti. So, I will continue to make comments that are based upon reality, and for those interested they can easily find the reference to the current situation with regard to oil usage in US, and make their own decision as to whether they should top up their tanks. I will not feed them selected links and suggest those are the facts. They can do a little research themselves and make up their own minds. They can also see that BP, Shell, Exxon etc, are not involved in any Ponzi schemes, whilst at it.

        And, I will never give financial advice on a public forum. But, I will correct incorrect and inconsistent financial comments, Jack, that are used to try and create a false narrative, rather than inform.

  7. Mud huts, campfires and foraging food for the next millennia for the 1,000+ who objected! And what about the 67,999,000 who didn’t object?!!!

  8. Reading some of the comments above is like listening to bald men arguing over a comb.

    The International Energy Agency says no new fossil fuel.

    Climate scientists are telling us;

    We’re at 1.2° of heating already. (Notice the hurricanes, fires, flooding?)
    1.5°C of heating within the next 5 years (the Paris “safe” limit)
    Global crop failures by 2°C
    Most humans dead by 4°C
    Earth uninhabitable by 6°C

    • That’s great. I’ll tell my poor elderly patients not to complain because their ingrates homes are naturally 1.2 degrees warmer on average this winter.

      They’ll be delighted, although they will probably be sheltering from all the hurricanes and forest fires that are dominating their every waking thought so much they haven’t noticed their food is 20% more expensive than 2 years ago.

      Let’s continue to import fossil fuels from dodgy counties that ARE developing their own resources still as well.

  9. Oh, Dorkinian, many are telling me to do lots of things. I could refer you to the latest Green leaflet plonked through my letterbox, but somewhere between my ears there are some grey cells that enable me to think. Not panic, but think.

    I think you must be bald to be arguing against local production whilst imports are at high levels producing emissions, some of which could be avoided, costing communities funds with your arguing and adding to climate scientists difficulties.

    Never mind, I see Drax are volunteering to keep the coal fired generation going longer.

  10. HAHA MARTIN ,

    I always know when I have you on the ropes …. Your posts start to fly of in strange tangents , lengthy waffle and ZERO substance.

    YOU ask for evidence and JACK happily obliges by putting forward the LINKS . Now for some strange reason , the LINK below is not good enough , as you don’t accept forecasts.

    WEATHER forecasts must also be a NO NO then .

    HAHA , forum members, it must be impossible to arrange a day out in MARTIN’S household , as this guy don’t believe in forcasts

    The LINK below which I am showing you for a second time , shows UK oil consumption over a number of years . It has been going DOWN and the forecast is , that it will continue to go DOWN

    As I said before , inflation which is measured by a number of factors here in the UK , at the moment is historically high . This will naturally play a key role in price rises at the pump . FACT

    Now MARTIN ( Mr Opinion Only ) , when you try and discredit what JACK had put forward, , please back it up with some meaningful evidence , not just an ” opinion ” backed up with your trademark of , ZERO evidence .

    For a second time , now look closely MARTIN, it says UK , not US .

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/332028/oil-consumption-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/

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